I’m the first to RSVP to parties. Backyard cookouts, birthday brunches, team potlucks, or white elephant gift exchanges — my answer is always yes. Shoot, I can get excited for a PTA meeting if there’s charcuterie and socializing afterward. I’m even more willing to host the soirées. Putting out a bucket of perfectly chilled beverages and turning on the music just so makes me feel like it’s a holiday any time of the year. I love turning acquaintances into friends and taking coats at the door. Being known and loved are two of my greatest needs, and when they are met, I desperately want to do the same for others.
I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles the year before COVID-19 hit. I was eight months pregnant, angry, sad and resentful. I left a city and robust community that I loved dearly. I left a support system that helped me keep my struggling marriage intact and lessened my fears of being able to thrive after having the baby. My doctors warned me that because my postpartum experiences with my previous two children were so difficult, statistically this one would be even worse. In Los Angeles, I had no nearby friends or family, no school or church network, and no desire to embrace these changes in any way. So, when the schools shut down about six months after our move, beginning the infamous 365-day weekend, I felt like it was my second year in lockdown, and that I’d never belong again.
During this time, a well-meaning friend texted me The Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
She added, I know you are the type that will bloom wherever you are planted!
I set a record for the biggest eye roll in history and thought about how, in my anger and self-pity, I didn’t really have any room for serenity. Plus, I had no way of being planted again, and why would I even want to when I was still feeling uprooted? So, I stayed miserable.
Through that year of isolation, while my coffee makers and serving platters gathered dust, and my hardships continued to pile up, I actually had to relearn how to cope and learn how to define myself outside of the confidence and solace I find in community and hosting. It was like two years of that feeling where no one wants to come to your birthday party no matter how cool you promise it will be. Without opportunities to connect with others outside of my household, I had to process all the hard things of infanthood, homeschooling, marriage strain and loneliness without people. I tried 10,000 unsuccessful ways of coping until I became humbled to my core and brought to my knees, where I now level with Jesus through prayers of desperation.
Maybe the Lord is challenging me to ready the home of my heart, to save a seat at the table, and keep the candles going until the guests arrive. He’s asking me to hold space for what is coming next, even when I don’t know what kind of party it will be or if I even want to attend. And I’m thinking he doesn’t want me to wait like a disgruntled blind date who’s been stood up and storms out of the restaurant. As the months pass, I’m trying to be more like the father who waited for his prodigal son — hopeful, faithful and without resentment. It’s humbling and hard, but if I’m a true hostess at heart, I know that opening the door to my home isn’t about showing how perfect and put together it is, but about showing how desirous and willing I am to share it and let it be seen in any condition.
So instead of throwing out my passion for people and my excitement for celebrating, I’ll wait until God gives me another helping of both. And if my mascara is running when the guests arrive or all I have left for appetizers are stale RITZ Crackers and that clumpy kind of natural peanut butter, I’ll still show up and put out a spread and hope that my feeble attempts can make others feel a little less alone in how their lives have been unexpectedly turned upside down.
I’ve written my own version of The Serenity Prayer for this season of life while I am petitioning God, not with preprinted prayers on darling cardstock, but with sputtering, simple pleadings from child’s pose because I don’t even have the strength to stay on my knees:
God, grant me the humility to start from scratch, the courage to show up and set the table, and the patience until I can bloom again.